This blog is a celebration of the wonderful world of vegan cooking. Enjoy!

* The title of this blog refutes the dangerous idea that veganism is a weight-loss diet and that all vegans are skinny. Conversely, being a-not-so-skinny-vegan is also not the same as being overweight or unhealthy. All food intake must be part of a balanced lifestyle.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Purple Carrot - Bellingen, NSW, Australia

If you ever find yourself on the north coast of New South Wales (and many travellers do as they make their way from Brisbane to Sydney or vice versa) I would highly recommend the short detour from the highway to the town of Bellingen.

The main street of Bellingen.
This tiny town of not even 3000 people seems to have achieved cult status with the cafe dwellers of the nearby bigger towns of Coffs Harbour and Nambucca Heads. And it's not hard to see why. The quiet little town is set against the beautiful peaks of the Dorrigo National Park and the main street proudly displays some beautifully preserved buildings full of food, fashion and craft stores that I've not seen the equal of in many places.

The creek in nearby Promised Land.
I had visited Bellingen on school trips when I was much, much younger but had not been there for many years. On our recent visit to Australia my lovely cousin and her, just as lovely, husband took us for a drive to Bellingen for lunch. We ate at a great, vegan-friendly cafe called The Purple Carrot.

The Purple Carrot
Bellingen, NSW

The cafe doesn't have a website (something I consider a sin these days) and there is nothing vegan on the menu. So why am I reviewing this cafe? Because they were super happy to accommodate vegans and they produced the most delicious quinoa salad with roasted macadamia nuts, beets, carrot and pumpkin/squash. The dish originally had cheese in it (goat's cheese, I think) but the dish really didn't need it and it was really filling and delicious.

The beet-pumpkin-macadamia nut quinoa salad was delicious (sans cheese).
There were lots of vegetarian options on the menu (Geoff really enjoyed his although he can't actually remember what he ate!), the coffee was great (soya milk available, of course) and the service was lovely. It was also just an absolute pleasure to sit out in the sun and enjoy a delicious lunch with great company.

If you have it then take the time to visit Bellingen and this yummy cafe!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Some notes from Australia... (Brisbane)

You might have noticed that I've been a bit absent lately. This time it wasn't just Cambridge eating into my spare time, I have legitimate excuses that are not attached to my code or my thesis. Firstly, I no longer have a computer at home which makes blogging a little difficult since my supervisor is not too keen on blogging in the office. Secondly, I spent all of July in Australia.

I moved to the UK in September of 2010 and have not been back to Australia since then. Despite the fact that I complain about the English weather, the horrid English food and the grumpy NHS doctors, I really do love the UK. But I also love Australia and it was really lovely to be home.

I have lots and lots of new and exciting recipes I would like to share with you all but I thought I would take some time to dedicate a few blog posts to some new and old favourite food spots that I visited while in Australia for all of my Australian readers (since I do tend to neglect them most of the time!).

In general, I think Australia has become a little more vegan friendly (or perhaps I've become so accustomed to paying exorbitant prices at UK restaurants that I'm eating at nicer places in Australia?). Even in my small, country hometown of Grafton I found a really lovely restaurant to eat at (twice!) and a couple of other places that were more than accommodating.

One thing that really got on my nerves is that everywhere in Australia charges extra for soya milk and decaf coffee. Apparently Australian cafes think it is necessary to charge me an extra $1 per cup of coffee for not being cool enough to drink caffeine and cow's milk! Not cool, Australian cafes, not cool at all.

Apart from the price of the coffee, it was so lovely to be able to enjoy cafe culture in the sun again. I especially enjoyed being back in Brisbane and meeting friends in all of the lovely cafes and restaurants that I've grown so fond of over the years so I think that will be the first place I write about. I didn't take any photos of any of the food in Brisbane, since I've eaten in the places so often, so I'll just write a few lines about each of my favourite places and I hope it helps any vegans visiting the area in the future.

I hope you are all enjoying your summer here in the UK (and the lovely mild winter at home in Australia!) and I look forward to sharing more of Australia (and then some great recipes!) with you soon!

Brisbane Vegan Recommendations

The Forest Vegan Cafe
West End

I don't think there is a single restaurant (vegan or non-vegan) in Brisbane that can beat The Forest for value for money. For $13 you can get an enormous plate of food (your choice of hot mains with brown rice or salad from the counter) or a good sized bowl full for $8. There is also a huge range of burgers, wraps and sandwiches with a lovely selection of vegans cakes and desserts (although the cakes are the same cost as the mains!). It's been refurbished in the past few years (although, unfortunately, the bathroom facilities have not so if you can avoid them then you probably should) and there is always free, self-serve water available.

The hot food can be a little bit bland sometimes (especially if you go for something like the dhal) but I would highly recommend getting a mix of salads and hot food because the salads are always delicious even if the ingredients look a bit surprising.

I ate here several times on my recent visit. They are open every day for both lunch and dinner and everything is vegan.

The Three Monkeys Cafe
West End

Although I never actually order any food at The Three Monkeys (you can get them to make some of the sandwiches vegan but I can never be bothered with the hassle, especially since The Forest is 500m down the road) but I love to meet friends here for a big bowl of soy chai. There is no denying that the atmosphere at The Three Monkeys is not really found anywhere else in Brisbane so I don't feel so bad about only ever going there for the chai. Note, though, that the soy chai is served with honey so if you are a non-honey vegan then you should tell them so when you order at the counter. It's also a very busy place and seating is hard to get so I would recommend scoping out a spot first and then ordering.

Elizabeth Street,City

Govindas is another great value-for-money place. Located opposite the Myer Centre on Elizabeth Street their entire restaurant is vegetarian and most of it is vegan (just ask, they are well aware of what a vegan is and can always let you know what you can and cannot eat). If you are a student then you can get the all-you-can eat Feast Deal for $10 instead of the usual $12.90. The Feast Deal includes rice, daily special mixed vegetable curry, split mung dahl, koftas with fresh tomato and herb chutney, a pappadam, fresh garden salad, halava with custard (unless you tell them you are vegan and then they give you a vegan alternative) and home made ginger & mint lemonade. And you just keep going back for more and more until you've had enough!

 If you don't want to have the Feast Deal you can also buy smaller portions of each of the daily specials or order off the menu.

It's yummy food, great value and lovely service.

Kitchen Sanitarium Cafe
Eagle Street, City

This was a new Brisbane experience for me. It was open when I used to live in Brisbane but due to the fact that it is only open for breakfast and lunch, and it's in the middle of the city, I just never made the effort to visit before. Which was stupid. Because this cafe is awesome.

It's a totally vegetarian cafe with lots of vegan options available on the lunch menu. If the cafe becomes a regular spot for you there are daily specials to break up the monotony of having the same thing every visit. However, I dn't think that this will be a problem; I had the Spiced Pumpkin Wrap on my visit and couldn't believe how full of flavour (or how large) it was.

I also met a friend there for breakfast early one morning, which was also a lovely experience, but there are a couple of things to note. Firstly, there is only one option for vegans on the breakfast menu: avocado on toast. It's yummy but if you don't like avocado you might be out of luck. Secondly, they don't advertise coffee on their menu although they do serve it. So, if you are desperate for that caffeine hit, just ask for it.

It can get quite busy during lunch so I would recommend booking a table.

A Night In India

Ah, A Night in India, how I missed you and your dhal palak! I cannot say enough good things about this restaurant. The service is awesome, the curries are delicious and they know what a vegan is and are more than happy to accommodate (curries can be made vegan and the roti is vegan).

Book ahead on Friday and weekend evenings because the restaurant is super busy. Also, takeaway gets a discount and the portions are slightly bigger so if you live nearby I would recommend getting takeway and enjoying the deliciousness at home!

Dragon Inn Restaurant
Chinatown, Fortitude Valley (aka The Valley)

They may serve a lot of meat, and they may have some pork dishes in the vegetarian section of their menu, but their Sizzling Szechuan Tofu and Chinese Mushroom with Tofu dishes are so awesome that I will keep going back here for a very long time. This is my favourite Chinese restaurant in Brisbane. Just be careful when you order anything else. Not everything may be as un-meaty as it seems...

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Thai Green Curry

I used to love going to Chinatown on warm Brisbane evenings for a deliciously spicy Thai Green Curry, sitting in the lovely outdoor setting of Thai Wi Rat. When we moved to Cambridge we discovered local Thai restaurant Sala Thong but found that eating out in the UK is a little pricey. So we started making our own green curries at home but with bought curry paste. When we could find curry paste that didn't contain shrimp paste, it just didn't have the same limey, fresh flavour of the green curries in restaurants. So we started making our own curry paste and we've not looked back.

Below is a recipe for the curry paste and then a recipe for making the green curry. The only thing to be wary of is that Thai curries use a lot of coconut milk and can be quite fatty and thus unhealthy if eaten regularly. If fat content is an issue for you, try some light coconut milk instead. If this still isn't right for you, try adding more vegies and using a mix of half vegie stock, half light coconut milk.

Thai Green Curry Paste

6 medium green chillies, deseeded and roughly chopped
5cm/2in piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
small bunch of fresh coriander
2 lemongrass stalks, chopped
juice of 1 lime
8 kaffir lime leaves, torn into pieces
1 tsp grated galangal
1 tbsp coriander seeds, crushed
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp black pepper (preferably from peppercorns)
2 tsp soy sauce
3 tbsp olive oil

Put all ingredients into a food processor or blend and blend until a smooth paste.

This recipe is enough for about 6-8 servings. You can use it straight away, store it in a fridge for up to 3 weeks or it even freezes OK.

Vegetable and Tofu Thai Green Curry

1/2 serving of above curry paste
1 tbsp vegetable oil (preferably sesame)
1 brown onion
1 cup green beans, chopped into 2.5cm pieces
1 carrot, sliced
1 bunch of Asian vegie (pak choi, bok choi etc), roughly chopped, leaves and ends separated
400ml coconut milk
300g firm tofu, cut into 1cm blocks
225g can bamboo shoots, drained
1 tbsp dark brown sugar (or palm sugar)
juice of 1 lime
coriander for garnish

Heat the oil in a hot wok and add onion and cook for a few minutes until it begins to soften. Add curry paste and stir for another minute. Add all of the vegies excluding the Asian vegie leaves and bamboo shoots. Add coconut milk and watch until it is about to boil.

Just before the coconut boils, lower the heat to a simmer. Add the sugar, bamboo shoots and tofu and let simmer until vegies are just about cooked. Then add lime juice.

Serve over rice (preferably jasmine although we prefer brown basmati).Garnish with coriander.

Serves 3-4.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Vegan Brussels

EDIT: Since I first wrote this blog post quite a few very helpful readers have made some corrections about my impressions of what is and isn't vegan. So make sure you check out the comments section!

Every vegan knows that one of the most difficult things about being a vegan is finding places to eat in a foreign country, especially if the language is not your mother tongue. Happy Cow is my go-to place to find places to eat but it's not always possible and, sometimes, when you do rock up at a restaurant listed as vegan-friendly, you can find yourself lost looking for a restaurant that hasn't existed since 1998 or in front of a waiter who has never heard the word vegan in his/her life.

Luckily my recent trip to Brussels was pretty successful on the food side of things. There's a great vegan restaurant open for lunch right in the centre of the city and a couple of other vegan-friendly hotspots littered around town. Also, Belgium is the chocolate capital of the world so you can get some really great, high-quality, milk/butter-free chocolate. But you need to be careful where you shop.


To start my little guide to vegan Brussels I'll give some hints about where to find good chocolate that is suitable for vegans.

The wikitravel website recommends Neuhaus and Leonidas on the cheaper but still good quality end of Belgian chocolate but I'm not sure I'd recommend either. Both seem to use butter instead of cocoa butter in most of their dark chocolates. You can get dark chocolate on a stick in Neuhaus that is vegan but that's about it. We also went to two separate stores and the service was friendly but pretty hopeless. Leonidas was very similar but the chocolate was even cheaper so I couldn't find any vegan-friendly options at all.

Galler Chocolatier chocolates can be found in most supermarkets.
It's great quality chocolate but a bit cheaper than the chocolate found in boutiques
(but not lesser quality!).
 I did find vegan friendly options in the local express supermarkets like Carrefour and GB. My particular favourite was Galler whose Noisettes chocolate (hazelnuts in cocoa butter and surrounded by dark chocolate) was absolutely delicious. It's definitely more expensive than chocolate you'd buy in the supermarket at home but it's still a lot cheaper than what was being sold in the 'boutiques'. I also saw Galler chocolate being sold in many of the chocolate shops that have a mix of brands. Just be careful to check out the ingredients (helpfully in English as well as Dutch and French) because some of the dark chocolates have cream in their centres.


 The frites (fries/fried potato chips) in Belgium are supposed to be the best. The secret, apparently, is that they double fry them so the chips are crispy and golden. There are many places to pick them up around the city (you can see Wikitravel's recommendations here) but you shouldn't pay any more than about 3 euros for a large cone including a sauce.

One of the great things about the frites in Belgium is the huge range of sauces available for them. Unfortunately, most are not vegan so you might just have to stick with ketchup or, like me, without any sauce at all. You also need to be careful that the store you go to uses vegetable fat to fry the chips in. A quick Google search should help you out.

Den Teepot
Rue des Chartreux 66, Brussels
Open: Mon-Sat 12pm-12pm

Den Teepot is the only vegan restaurant in Brussels.
This is Brussels only vegan restaurant and is, unfortunately, only open for lunch Mon-Sat 12pm-2pm. The menu is very simple but this means the food comes out very quickly but is beautifully presented, fresh and very tasty!

There are two soups available (a miso or a vegetable soup) as a starter and then you choose one of four options for your main. These options are actually all very similar with only slight additions as they go up in price. Dish A is a brown rice and vegetable dish (it sounds basic but it tastes brilliant!) for 9 euros. Dish B is Dish A plus a croquette of brown rice, quinoa, potato and herbs (11 euros). Dish B is Dish A plus seitan (11 euros). Dish D is Dish A with the croquette and the seitan (13 euros). There is then also a selection of cakes (not on a menu but rather delicately laid out on a cake dish and brought to you for your selection) and herbal teas, if you are still hungry.

The vegetable, brown rice and croquette dish (Dish B) at Den Teepot.
The flavours and textures on the plate are magnificent!
Even though the dish looks very simple it is packed with individual flavours and is really quite filling. We both had Dish B and were surprisingly full after the meal despite the fact that we were ravenous before.

The only complaint I'd have is that we were not offered any water and the food is quite salty. It's also not easy to find the restaurant (it's upstairs to an organic food store; just head through the wooden door as soon as you walk in to the shop's front door). However, the waitress was lovely (and spoke Dutch, French and English) and the food was really delicious so I would highly recommend a visit!

Mr Falafel  
53 Bd Lemonnier, Brussels
Open: Daily 12pm-midnight
The very petite Mr Falafel has tasty and inexpensive
vegetarian food.
Mr Falafel is a very tiny falafel snackbar between the two exits of the Anneessens tram/metro stop or about a 10 minute slow stroll from the Grand Place so it's very convenient to get to. It's not exactly in the most spectacular part of Brussels (there seem to be no women on the streets after 8pm at all) but it's one of the only places in town that is 100% vegetarian and it's extremely cheap. It's 3 euros for a pita with hummus and 4 falafels and you then help yourself to quite a big range of salad and sauces to stuff your pita with. Not all of the salads are vegan but I just avoided the ones that looked like they had cream in them (I'm not sure if the lovely lady behind the counter speaks French or English because our total transaction was done with smiles and gestures so I didn't get to ask about the salads so just took the ones without sauces).

A falafel from Mr Falafel: pita filled with hummus and falafel that you then
stuff with your own choice of salad from the salad bar.
There are a few tables and chairs in the tiny space but you might end up sharing a table because it's a popular spot! If you are after yummy, cheap vegetarian food then this is the place to go!

Le Pain Quotidien
Several locations, see website for map.
Le Pain Quotidien, Rue des Sablon
 Le Pain Quotidien is actually a chain of bakeries found all around the world, including Australia and the UK, but the majority are in Belgium, where the chain started. It is quite a pricey bakery/cafe/restaurant but their goods are quite yummy and the service is quite pleasant. We visited the same store (Rue des Sablons 11) twice because it was situated across from the very beautiful Notre Dame du Sablon and about 200 metres from the the Magritte Museum, Fine Arts Museum and the palaces.

The organic (bio) muffin at Le Pain Quotidien is vegan and delicious!
The vegan options are clearly labelled VEGAN on the menu (if you are eating in) or the price list (if you take away). The take away prices are much less than the eat-in prices, even for the same items. On both occassions I had the organic vegan muffin (one was blueberry and the other apple). The cafe has a pleasant, shared oval table as well as some more formal, smaller restaurant-like tables in the back but I would recommend skipping the extra costs involved with dining in, grabbing your muffin and taking it to the Place du Petit Sablon, across the road, to eat it in the park.

If you happen to take a day trip to Bruges (which I would highly recommend, but pack a raincoat!) there is also a store there.

Take your vegan muffin across to the lovely Place du Petit Sablon.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Flour-free Lemon & Blueberry Polenta Cake

I have had polenta sitting in my cupboard for quite a while. I actually kind of like eating it as a meal but it's such a hassle to cook.

I recently made some savoury muffins with polenta and the result was really quite yummy. So, when I saw a recipe at a friend's house for a flour-free cake using polenta (and lemon and blueberries!) I couldn't help veganising it and trying it for myself.

I've recently come to realise that what I know as a 'cup' is quite different to that in the UK and US. As a result, I'm going to start including the weights in my recipes as well as the measurements. However, as long as you are consistent with the types of measures you use, it really shouldn't matter.

Flour-free Lemon & Blueberry Polenta Cake

3/4 cup (100g) sugar
1/4 cup (100g) vegan butter
2 tsp ground flaxseed*
4 tbsp (80ml) water
1 1/3 cup (100g) ground almond meal
3/4 cup (90g) polenta
1 tsp baking powder
1 lemon, grated rind + juice
 100ml soya yoghurt
1 cup (100g) blueberries

Preheat oven to 180C.

Cream/beat together sugar and butter in a large bowl.

In a small cup or bowl whisk together the flaxseed and water until thick and creamy. Add 2 tbsp of the ground almond meal and whisk again until it thickens a bit more. Add this to butter/sugar. Stir in rest of almond meal, polenta, baking powder and lemon rind and juice until combine. Stir in yoghurt until combined. Finally, stir in half of the blueberries. 

Press mixture into a pre-greased loaf tin. Sprinkle the remaining blueberries on top and press lightly into mixture. Bake for 45 minutes.

*Or other egg substitute.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Spiced Cocoa Muffins

These chocolatey but earthy muffins are perfect for winter afternoon tea. My muffins came out a little cracked on top due to the fact that I am too lazy to move the racks in my oven. But they were still really delicious! The recipe is adapted from The Joy of Vegan Baking (which is the best vegan baking book ever so you should all get it).

Spiced Cocoa Muffins

3 tsp ground flaxseed (or other egg replacer for 2 eggs)
4 tbsp water
1 3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
6 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking/bicarb soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
1 cup soya milk
1/2 cup vegan butter, melted
1/2 cup vegan choc chips

Preheat over to 200C (400F).

Whip together ground flaxseed and water in a small bowl.  Add milk and melted butter.

Mix the dry ingredients (ex choc chips) together in a separate large bowl. Add the liquid mix to this and stir until just combined. Stir in choc chips.

Spoon into pre-greased muffin pans. I normally fill 12 to just under the brim of the muffin tin. Put it in the centre of your oven and bake for 15-20 minutes (skewer inserted into the middle should come out clean except if it hits a melted choc chip!).

Take them out of the over, let them sit for 5 minutes and then cool on a wire rack.


Sunday, February 5, 2012

Creamy Curried Lentil and Pumpkin/Squash Soup

Winter finally made it to Cambridge. It's been very mild and then suddenly we had ridiculously cold weather last week and then snow last night. I had never really seen snow fall properly so it was quite a treat. We spent the day frollicking in town. I even managed my first snow ball fight!

Selwyn College Old Court

But after a long day of walking around in snow it is nice to come home to a warm house and some yummy food. We had a butternut pumpkin/squash in the cupboard so I decided to make a yummy soup but with lots of lentils and chickpeas for protein (but with almost no fat)!

Creamy Curried Lentil and Pumpkin/Squash Soup

1 brown onion, chopped
1 leek (white and green bits), cut in half and then sliced
2 carrots, sliced
2 small gold sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 butternut pumpkin/squash, peeled, deseeded and chopped
1 cup of red lentils, prewashed
1 cup chickpeas, presoaked* but not cooked**
1 tbsp soya sauce
1/2 tbsp hot curry powder
1/2 tbsp ground cumin
1/2 tbsp garam masala
1/2 tbsp hot chili powder
1/2 tbsp salt
black pepper to taste

Put the vegies, lentils and chickpeas in a large soup pan/pot and cover with water. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 40 min-1 hour (or whenever the chickpeas cook). Blend the hot soup in the pot with a stick blender or transfer to a food processor/blender/liquidiser and then transfer back to the pot.

Keep the blended soup on a low heat and add the spice. Note that you are putting 1/2 tablespoon of each in. Simmer for another couple of minutes and then serve.

*a couple of hours soaking in some water should be fine
** if you only have cooked/canned chickpeas then just add them at the end instead of at the start

Monday, January 9, 2012


Don't know what phirni is? Neither did I! But it's damn delicious and a great dessert for dinner parties because it can be made in advance.

Apparently, fir-ni, phir-ni or phir-nee, is eaten among the Muslim community of North India and also in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is normally flavoured with cardamom, raisins, saffron, cashews, pistachios or almonds and can also have fruit pulp added!

This is just a basic recipe I found on the internet that I veganised for an Indian-themed dinner party that I had.The ground rice turns the hot liquid into a deliciously spice, gelatinous, cold pudding. Very yummy!


(advanced prep needed)

1/2 cup basmati rice (or some other long grained rice)
1 litre/ 4 cups of soya milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cardamom powder
pinch of saffron
1/2 cup mix of unsalted almonds and pistachios chopped coarsely

Thoroughly wash and drain the rice. Put it into a bowl and cover with water. Soak for 2 hours.

Drain and grind the rice to a very coarse paste. I did this with my mortar and pestle but it could also be done on a hard surface with the back of a spoon. The rice needs to be broken down into small pieces but doesn't need to be completely smooth. You want to be able to see the pieces.

Put the rice paste, milk, sugar, cardamom and saffron into a deep, heavy bottomed pan and cook on medium heat till the rice is soft. Stir often to prevent the milk from scorching or burning.

Reserve some nuts for garnishing and add the remaining nuts to the phirni. Stir well. 

Turn off the heat. Allow the phirni to cool, then chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of 2 hours. You can either put it straight into the bowls you will serve it in (like I did) or put it into a bigger container and scoop the cold dessert out later into smaller bowls. I thought it looked nice in ramekins.
Garnish with remaining nuts.

  • You can use brown long grain rice for this but I would suggest doubling the soaking time and making sure that when you cook the rice it is really soft before you refrigerate it.
  • You can add all sorts of different flavours. I tried almonds and cinnamon for Christmas and it was also really delicious. 
  •  If your soya milk has a lot of added sugar then consider cutting back on some of the sugar you add.